BRING ON THE DODGERS

Cubs sur­vive thriller to elim­i­nate Na­tion­als, ad­vance to NLCS

Chicago Sun-Times - - CUBS EXTRA - GOR­DON WITTENMYER Email: gwit­ten­myer@sun­times. com

WASH­ING­TON — If this is what the rest of Oc­to­ber — and maybe even Novem­ber — has in store for the Cubs, then buckle up for an­other wild ride.

In an epic, strange, of­ten ugly Game 5 of their Na­tional League Di­vi­sion Se­ries on Thurs­day against the Na­tion­als, the Cubs came from be­hind to win 9- 8 to clinch a third con­sec­u­tive trip to the NL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries.

If man­ager Joe Mad­don wanted the Dodgers, as he sug­gested when asked about them in Au­gust, he’s got them. Game 1 is sched­uled for Satur­day in Los An­ge­les, with Dodgers ace Clayton Ker­shaw star­ing the Cubs in the face. The Cubs are ex­pected to start Jose Quin­tana, who came out of the bullpen in the sev­enth in­ning for a nail- biter ap­pear­ance that likely dou­bled as his between- starts side ses­sion.

Game 5 was any­thing but rou­tine from start to elec­tric fin­ish, with closer Wade Davis strik­ing out Na­tion­als su­per­star Bryce Harper to close his 2„- in­ning out­ing and send the Cubs into an­other rau­cous cel­e­bra­tion.

The hard- luck Na­tion­als were bounced in the NLDS for the fourth time in the last six sea­sons.

Who knew Cubs co- owner Todd Rick­etts was a baseball sa­vant to ri­val Casey Sten­gel and Bob Costas when he joined the team for its trip to Wash­ing­ton in June? The Na­tion­als? ‘‘ We’re go­ing to run into th­ese guys in the play­offs,’’ Rick­etts said to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump dur­ing the Cubs’ sec­ond White House visit in barely five months. ‘‘ You’ll see them crum­ble.’’

Wild pitches, passed balls, field­ing er­rors, poor baserun­ning, a hit bat­ter and a catcher’s in­ter­fer­ence call all con­spired with the Cubs’ hit­ting to do in the Na­tion­als.

Th­ese Cubs took what Mad­don called a dif­fer­ent path all sea­son to get here, so why would Game 5 of the NLDS have been any dif­fer­ent.

They pulled it off with­out An­thony Rizzo reach­ing base, with post­sea­son stud Kyle Hen­dricks fight­ing through only four in­nings, with Daniel Mur­phy look­ing like a Cub- killer again and with only Justin Wil­son and John Lackey left in their bullpen.

Mur­phy hit a sec­ond- in­ning home run against Hen­dricks and a sixth- in­ning RBI dou­ble against Mike Mont­gomery, and he drew two walks — in­clud­ing one in the eighth against Davis that led to a two- out run that cut the Cubs’ lead to one.

And it took the Cubs’ big­gest re­play chal­lenge of the sea­son to end that threat and get to the ninth with the lead.

With Michael Tay­lor on sec­ond, Jose Lo­ba­ton on first and lead­off man Trea Turner at the plate, Cubs catcher Will­son Con­tr­eras threw be­hind Lo­ba­ton for the pick­off that looked like any­thing but — un­til the re­play showed Lo­ba­ton’s foot came off the bag on his slide.

Just like that, the in­ning was over.

Davis got the fi­nal seven outs of the game and saved his best for last, re­tir­ing the top of the Na­tion­als’ lineup in or­der in or­der in the ninth. He struck out Jayson Werth and Harper to end it.

The Cubs have played three win­ner- take- all Game 5s in their his­tory, all on the road. This was their first since beat­ing the Braves in At­lanta in the 2003 NLDS. They also lost to the Padres in San Diego in the 1984 NLCS.

But it’s hard to imag­ine any­thing in their post­sea­son his­tory — from called shots by Babe Ruth to curses by billy goats — ever looked like this one did Thurs­day.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ GDubCub.

Ben Zo­brist cel­e­brates while scor­ing on a two- run dou­ble by Ad­di­son Russell dur­ing the Cubs’ four- run fifth in­ning Thurs­day. | AP

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